Big British heists to be aired on DStv

2011-11-28 00:00

WHEN robbers targeted £40 million (R528 million) worth of gold bullion and £40 million in cash, they didn’t expect to have their plans scuppered by the Metropolitan Police Flying Squad.

The raid on the Swissport depot at Heathrow is the subject of the December 2 episode of Britain’s Biggest Heists, which airs on the Crime and Investigation Network (DStv channel 255) at 9 pm.

On May 17, 2004, armed police were lying in wait for the gang as a white, transit van smashed into the warehouse doors.

The gang threatened staff with firearms, knives, cudgels, hockey sticks and lumps of wood, after reversing at speed through the warehouse shutters. They then forced their way into a secure area containing a large quantity of precious metal and bank notes.

But as the men tried to escape, officers fired special bullets — designed to deflate tyres with minimal damage — into the van’s wheels. Eight men were sentenced to a total of 66 years, one fled the scene and was never caught.

Barry Phillips, a former flying squad detective who now works as a security consultant, shared his thoughts on what could have been Britain’s biggest ever robbery with The Witness.

Phillips said that in the early 2000s there was a rise in the number of high-value robberies in and around Heathrow, and the businesses in the area were concerned and made representations to the government.

He said, “The net result was that the Metropolitan Police were given the role of combating the rise in crime around Heathrow, something we had to do in tandem with the local forces — the Thames Valley Police, which operates in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, and the Surrey Police.

“We worked in partnership with the other forces and with the companies in the area to combat crime … and that helped when it came to deploying officers on the day of the Swissport raid.

“On the day it was very intense; there had been a long build-up. The operation utilised every policing technique, including traditional investigation, but the big break came when a man, arrested for drug smuggling, turned supergrass.

• Britain’s Biggest Heists is on the Crime and Investigation Network on Fridays at 9 pm.

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